Priest in Charge - the Rev'd
St John the Evangelist’s Church, Corby Glen
Although there has been a church on this site since at least Norman times, the large medieval church you see today is essentially a 15th century building, incorporating a substantial amount of earlier, 13th and 14th century work. Our church’s claim to fame is for its medieval wall paintings, some of the finest in Britain, of which more later.
The imposing west tower, a local landmark, house a ring of five bells. Four of these are original and were cast between 1580 and 1628. A fifth bell, from Bassingham church and dating from 1694, was added in 1988. The bells were re-hung in a modern steel bell frame in 1975 when the old Grammar School bell of 1691 was also installed as a weekday service bell.
The main entrance to the church is through the south porch which has a priest’s room above. Its window is immediately above the porch doorway. The nave (the main body of the church) has north and south aisles and a clerestory, which was added when the roof was raised in the 15th century. The recently restored royal arms above the tower arch are those of King George I.
At the west end of the north aisle are the remains of a medieval stained glass window depicting St John the Evangelist to whom the church is dedicated. The font, near the north door, is probably 14th century. On the wall at the east end of the north aisle is a memorial to a local man, William Willerton, the young captain of a clipper ship which sank in a storm in the North Sea in 1882 when carrying coals (for which it was never designed) from Tyneside to Calcutta to refuel steamships.
To the left (north) of the chancel arch, which separates the nave from the chancel beyond, is the pulpit, on the front of which is carved the figure of St John the Evangelist holding a gospel and chalice. The tiny doorway above the pulpit once gave access to the wooden rood screen which spanned the top of the chancel arch in medieval times.
The chancel itself was rebuilt in about 1860, although 15th century stone tracery was reused in the east window above the altar. The stained glass in the east window is Victorian. The wooden altar rails are 17th century, installed to keep dogs out of the sanctuary.
We now come to the thing for which Corby is nationally renowned. In 1939 a previous churchwarden, removing flaking whitewash from the church walls, discovered medieval wall paintings beneath. An expert on wall paintings, Clive Rouse, continued the work uncovering and preserving as many as he could, carefully recording them in water colours in a book. The paintings cover a fascinating range of subjects, some of which are unique to Corby, and justify detailed study. Because the wall paintings consist of 15th century work painted over earlier 14th century work and have a patterned stencil background they can appear somewhat confusing in places.
The clearest of the wall paintings are those on the clerestory walls above the nave which depict scenes from the nativity - Mary and the baby Jesus; the shepherds watching their flocks; two of the three wise men; and King Herod - all dressed in medieval garb !
The paintings on the wall of the north aisle include St Christopher holding the Christ child; St Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read; St Michael weighing souls while Mary shelters waiting souls under her cloak; and Mary holding her dead son, Jesus, on her knees. Over the chancel arch are the remains of a ‘doom’ painting - the last judgment - and a ‘Tree of Jesse’ on the wall of the south aisle.
Visitors from far and wide come to see our wall paintings and a printed leaflet with a full description and explanation of Corby’s medieval wall paintings (and of other notable features of St John’s church) is available at a small charge on a table at the west end of the nave. St John’s church is open to visitors daily from 10am to dusk.